Part of the “Ask Amy” column in today’s Washington Post addressed the Title IX implications of a coach requiring a player to conform to gender stereotypes with respect to appearance:
DEAR AMY: I am a girl in my junior year of high school, and the volleyball coach won’t let me compete until I shave my underarms and legs (our uniforms are sleeveless tops and shorts).
I don’t want to be forced into something that I feel is completely unnecessary. Leg and underarm hair is a completely natural part of becoming a woman.
Is this discrimination? Is there anything I can do (besides shave)?
I really want to play volleyball! — Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
DEAR GONE: If your coach also insisted that the male volleyball or basketball players must shave their underarms and legs, then perhaps this wouldn’t qualify as discrimination.
I’m going to assume that your coach does not make the male players at your school adhere to the same shaving practices.
I shared your letter with Lenore Lapidus, director of the Women’s Rights Project for the American Civil Liberties Union, who responded, “This is clearly gender discrimination, based on stereotypes of how girls and women should look.” Lapidus would like to remind your coach that Title IX prohibits discrimination in any institution receiving federal funds.
Title IX is the federal statute that pushed open the door for girls to compete in sports on an equal footing with boys.
Lapidus suggests that you start by talking to the coach. “Try to work it out at school. It seems like something they should come around about because this is fairly clear-cut.” If your coach continues to insist on this shaving rule, take your concern to the principal. I hope you will stand up for your right not to be forced to shave any part of your body that you don’t wish to shave.
Good advice, Amy!